Volume 16, Issue 3 - May/June 2012


A New Film Star in California
IWFA’s California Report Reveals Window Film
as Most Cost Effective Energy Savings Choice

by Katie O'Mara

California is no longer just for movie stars and show business. In fact, a whole new kind of film review was just released and the verdict is two thumbs up. The International Window Film Association (IWFA) has released its report titled, “Energy Analysis for Window Films Applications in New and Existing Homes and Offices.” The independent analysis, which was done by California energy consultant firm ConSol, revealed that window film is the most cost-effective energy saving choice for Californians when used in retrofit applications on homes and buildings.

Why California?
When the association began pursuing this study, California seemed to be the obvious choice due to its size and reputation as a fairly energy-efficient state.

“In the world of energy efficiency, California is somewhat unique in that it is a large and populous state, it contains most of the climatic zones in the U.S., it imports much of its electricity needs and yet it has one of the lower energy uses per capita for the entire U.S.,” says Darrell Smith, IWFA executive director. “If the use of energy control window film is shown and accepted as a valuable tool in energy efficiency there, then other states and regions will more seriously consider including it in their own programs, both current and future. In addition, the processes being done in California, from overview to analysis to communication to actionable programs including more window film use, can serve as a template for repetition across the U.S.”

Just as Florida has become the benchmark state for hurricane codes and protection, California sets the standard for energy legislation, which is why California became the natural option of choice for this type of report. ConSol contracted with the IWFA after the energy consultant firm impressed the association with a submission for the report. “Late last spring, the IWFA board of directors sent out a request for proposal to several different recommended companies who had experience in working in the California building code arena and then reviewed the responses and selected ConSol as being the best fit for the IWFA’s current needs,” says Smith. “ConSol then held several teleconferences with the chairs of the technical committee, the government advocacy committee and the executive director. Then some direct contacts between ConSol’s technical staff and several of our manufacturers’ technical experts were held to insure that ConSol knew what resources our industry had to support their internal efforts.”

Study Up
The results of the study were overwhelmingly positive for window film. ConSol concluded that, by comparing the installation of window film to other energy savings measures (updating HVAC systems, air sealing and caulking, adding R-38 ceiling insulation), the “best opportunities for saving energy with window films in California are in existing buildings, especially in existing high-rise office buildings.”

“The IWFA discovered, through ConSol’s efforts, that the code officials for California utilize unique software analyses in determining what energy measures might be considered in increasing the energy efficiency of both residential and commercial buildings,” says Smith. “Therefore, to determine what, if any, impact the use of energy control films might have on energy efficiency, ConSol was given a range of generic product specifications to use in an analysis using the California software parameters. The IWFA needed to understand specifically where window film use might best fit in energy efficiency planning in California and the differences in results from different groups of product parameters.”

The study concludes that existing office buildings are an ideal match for a window film retrofit, where new office buildings might not have as much of an opportunity due to high performance glazing. Existing offices in Oakland, Calif., which has mild temperatures, with single pane glass showed a return on investment (ROI) for film installation between 6-37 percent, depending on the quality of the product, compared with an ROI between 11-25 percent for existing offices with double pane glass. In locations with more extreme temperatures, like San Diego, existing offices with single-pane glass showed a ROI between 32-64 percent and an ROI between 20-44 percent on existing offices with double-pane glass.

The report showed that new residential homes will benefit from window film, though not as much as commercial buildings, due to the many other more cost effective ways to reduce energy in new homes and the high-efficiency windows that are used in newer homes.

The study also showed that window film is, “an effective means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions [GHG] when used in retrofitting existing buildings.” According to the report, most GHG comes from homes built before 1980 and since window film has been shown in the report to be a cost effective solution for existing residential and commercial buildings, it can be a viable ingredient in the fight against GHG.

Why Does it Matter?
For many within the industry the findings in the report are not surprising. After all, the industry expects window film to perform well.

“Although those with years of experience in the industry knew window films worked and saved energy in much of California, except for various case studies conducted by our manufacturer members over the years, most evidence was anecdotal and not very well-documented,” says Smith. “I believe many in the industry were very surprised to see just how well window film ranked when compared to other measures which might be undertaken in buildings, both for single-pane windows and dual-pane windows.”

The IWFA encourages window film dealers to use the report to help make sales and educate consumers. “Local dealers can quote from the report to their prospective clients and send them directly to the IWFA website or to their manufacturer members’ websites to see the full report,” says Smith.

The future remains unknown in terms of building on this report, but the IWFA says plans to expand the study are already in progress.

“Consideration of the need to expand the California study and for other area-specific studies is already underway. However, until we have effectively communicated and fully utilized this new information in our plans in California, other studies will not likely be undertaken as studies without planning for follow-up resources may make for great reading but normally shows poor results.”

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